Samuel Taylor Coleridge

LIFE AND WORKS -> Coleridge is the other great romantic poet of the first generation. He was still young when he met the poet Robert Southey, with whom, inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, he planned to found a community in America called “Pantisocracy. It was for Coleridge the friendship with William and Dorothy Wordsworth, which was determined for his literary carrier resulting in particular in the publication of the Lyrical Ballads. The contribution for Coleridge to the Lyrical Ballads was only four poems, including “The Rime of Ancient Mariner”, but they have got more musicality and rhythm. Another important work of Coleridge was the “Biografia Literaria” in two volumes, which conteins his theories on the nature of poetry and where he analyses the role of “Imagination” considered the most important creative principles.

IMPORTANCE OF IMAGINATION -> Coleridge says that there are two types of imagination: primary and secondary imagination: The “primary imagination” -> 1) used unconsciously 2) human individual power to produce images 3)the power to give chaos a certain order. The “secondary imagination” -> 1) the poetic facolty which not only gives shape and order to a given world, but builds new worlds. The different role of imagination for Coleridge and Wordsworth is that, while both exalt the imagination, Wordsworth “half- created” that is modifies and transforms the data of experience (recollecting in tranquillity), Coleridge transcends the data of experience and “creates” in the true sense of the word the data of experience, making credible what is incredible.


Fancy -> a kind of logical facolty: the mechanical ability that poet has to use devices like metaphors, allitterations in poetry in order to blend various ingredients into beautiful images.


One of the most important contributions of C. to the English Romantic movement is his idea of supernatural. The different role that nature plays in Coleridge’s poetry we find well in the “Rime of Ancient Mariner”. For him, nature is the link between man and God but also the manifestation of God’s will in punishing the mariner who had broken the balance instablished in the Universe.




The story: the ballad is made up of 7 parts and is set in a boundless sea with days of pitiless sun and nights lit by the moon, it’s introduced by an Argument (a short summary of the whole poem and consists of 2 narratives:

  1. Captions to the right of the stanzas (short sentences in prose): a sort of framework which introduce the protagonist and his listener;
  2. Stanzas.


The plot

  • The Ancient Mariner stops a wedding guest to tell him his frightening story. He narrates how he and his fellow mariners left England, went southwards and reached the Equator and the South Pole after a violent storm.
  • After the storm, an albatross appeared and led them out of the South Pole (he was good); despite this the Mariner killed the albatross with an arrow. We don’t know why the Mariner killed the albatross:
  1. Coleridge doesn’t say why and suggests the irrationality of the crime;
  2. This action is against nature: because of this action the Mariner brakes the relationship between men and nature.
  • A phantom ship came closer to the crew and was identified as a skeleton ship. On board, Death and Life-in-Death are casting dice (this game is linked to destiny): Death won the Mariner’s fellow lives and Life-in-Death won the Mariner’s life.
  • All the Mariner’s fellow died.
  • The Mariner is alone and started a sort of “life in death”. He blessed some water snakes lit by the moon (they are beautiful) and began to re – establish a relationship with nature. The bodies of the crew rose again and steered the ship back home.
  • At the end, the Ancient Mariner leaves the wedding guest after teaching him to love all living beings through his story (moral): he needs to teach this moral to feel alive again.